You’ve heard of the 5-second rule, whereby food that has been dropped may be eaten without any stigma. But are you familiar with the 10-second rule? If you are a professional services provider who works directly with clients, you should learn about this important principle.

In a recent article in Accounting Today, Kyle Walters, a partner with L&H CPAs and Advisors, shares how the 10-second rule better facilitates two-way conversations with clients. And this same philosophy can apply to other professionals like bankers, financial advisors, attorneys…really anyone who advises small- or medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Less talking, more listening

Through client feedback, Walters had discovered that one of the less talkative partners in his firm got consistently great client reviews. People would say that this particular partner is so smart and they really feel like he listens to them. Turns out, Walters’ partner is using the 10-second rule.

“Here’s how it works,” writes Walters. “If I find myself talking for more than 10 consecutive seconds during a client meeting, I make myself stop and ask the client an open-ended question and give them ample time to respond.”

Sounds simple, right? It may be tougher than you think. By analyzing his administrative assistant’s meeting notes, Walters came to a shocking realization that he, not his client, was doing more than 90 percent of the talking during most of his client meetings. Once he became aware of how lopsided his meetings were, he committed to changing his approach and implemented the 10-second rule.

Changing your loquacious ways

They say that breaking a habit takes 28 days. However, it shouldn’t take you that long to learn to do more listening to your business owner-clients and less talking by using the 10-second rule. If you’re ready to turn over a new leaf with your talking-to-listening ratio, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Prepare more effectively for your meetings

Understanding your client’s industry is critical to a productive meeting that yields insights you can apply to future conversations and pitches. That’s why it’s so important to prepare in advance by doing effective industry research. And Vertical IQ can help.

Prior to your meeting, review the Vertical IQ Industry Profile for your client’s business to get an understanding of how their sector operates, the risks they face, and the trends that are occurring. This will give you a better picture of the types of business issues that may be top-of-mind for your client.

Be certain to review the chapter within the Industry Profile called Call Prep Questions, where you will find 20 to 30 industry-relevant questions. Select a handful of the questions that you think are most pertinent to your client’s situation and the related solutions you may be able to provide, either now or down the road.

Ask better questions…and actively listen to the answers

To get the type of information you need in order to add value to your client relationships, you need to use each of your 10-second segments wisely during meetings. The goal, after all, is to get your client talking more than you! That means asking good, probing questions, such as the Call Prep Questions you identified during your pre-meeting research.

It also means actively listening to your client’s response. So often in conversations, people are just waiting for their next chance to talk. As a result, folks are not actively listening to the person they are speaking with, meaning they aren’t internalizing the things the speaker is telling them. The 10-second rule can help alleviate this challenge by encouraging you to ask salient questions that constantly put the ball back in the client’s court to talk during your conversation.

Additionally, by using the 10-second rule during your meetings, you will be more apt to say something valuable and worthwhile to your client when you DO speak…versus just “talking to talk.”

You’ll likely find that your clients are happier with their relationship with you, viewing you as an insightful and trusted advisor to them and their business…much like the way clients described Walters’ less talkative business partner.

The art of listening

By using the 10-second rule, asking questions tailored to your client’s industry, and actively listening to the client’s response, you will gain useful insights about them and their business. This will allow you to provide them with the type of valuable advice and solutions that will make their business more successful and their life simpler. And that will make their meetings with you well-worth the time!

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